October 19, 2006
Romulan Cloaking Device Duplicated At Duke University

Reality is every bit as strange as fiction.

Durham, NC -- A team led by scientists at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering has demonstrated the first working "invisibility cloak." The cloak deflects microwave beams so they flow around a "hidden" object inside with little distortion, making it appear almost as if nothing were there at all.

Microwave cloaking isn't as shocking as optical cloaking. But it is still very impressive.

Cloaks that render objects essentially invisible to microwaves could have a variety of wireless communications or radar applications, according to the researchers.

The team reported its findings on Thursday, Oct. 19, in Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science. The research was funded by the Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

The researchers manufactured the cloak using "metamaterials" precisely arranged in a series of concentric circles that confer specific electromagnetic properties. Metamaterials are artificial composites that can be made to interact with electromagnetic waves in ways that natural materials cannot reproduce.

The cloak represents "one of the most elaborate metamaterial structures yet designed and produced," the scientists said. It also represents the most comprehensive approach to invisibility yet realized, with the potential to hide objects of any size or material property, they added.

Earlier scientific approaches to achieving "invisibility" often relied on limiting the reflection of electromagnetic waves. In other schemes, scientists attempted to create cloaks with electromagnetic properties that, in effect, cancel those of the object meant to be hidden. In the latter case, a given cloak would be suitable for hiding only objects with very specific properties.

I figure when the Terminator robots take over and start hunting us down the ability to hide from their microwave search beams will help some of us live longer.

The cloak passes microwaves around it unlike materials in stealth bombers that just absorb microwaves. Prevention of reflection in existing stealth technology is not as impressive as a design that keeps microwaves going on their natural course.

"By incorporating complex material properties, our cloak allows a concealed volume, plus the cloak, to appear to have properties similar to free space when viewed externally," said David R. Smith, Augustine Scholar and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke. "The cloak reduces both an object's reflection and its shadow, either of which would enable its detection."

The team produced the cloak according to electromagnetic specifications determined by a new design theory proposed by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London, in collaboration with the Duke scientists. The scientists reported that theoretical work in Science earlier this year.

Are there non-military applications for this technology? If so, what are they?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 19 09:46 PM  Materials Advances

Hacklehead said at October 20, 2006 6:43 AM:

Very interesting. Should get a bit of attention from the Pentagon.

Next step shields and photon torpedoes.

Bob Badour said at October 20, 2006 8:20 AM:

Microwaves are frequently used in communications. One might increase coverage and range by cloaking some obstructions.

And then one has the ultimate in convenience: Imagine a meal in a container one could throw into a microwave oven so that parts get hot while parts stay cool. One might even cloak metal utensils inside the package.

Jerry Martinson said at October 21, 2006 5:43 AM:

So-called "Meta-materials" have potential applications in the improvement of design, performance, and packaging of RF antennas. In particular, there is a desire to have compound (multi-element) antennas implanted directly on the same substrate as the transmit and receive electronics. Currently, RF communication systems usually either have special-purpose antennas connected to the printed circuit board substrate via connectors/cables, or a "patch" antenna integrated directly on that printed circuit substrate. The "patch" antennas implemented this way, while having cost and packaging advantages, have several limitations with respect to directivity (gain), polarization, and orientation. Most antennas are also restricted to being a size comparable 1/4 to 1/2 the wavelength or are not sutable for ultra-wide-band signals, which is probably where most of the post-2010 development of RF communication technology will occur. The use of "meta-material" structures may allow for novel designs that can overcome these restrictions. Other field-RF applications may involve novel "dispersive" passive panels for mazimizing multipath, improving the performance of MIMO-like schemes.

michael vassar said at October 21, 2006 8:04 AM:

Meta-materials have LOTS of applications in optics and manufacturing.
Cloaking in particular... well... is espionage military? Mundane crime?
Field biology I guess.
Maybe if it's really cheap you could use it for real-estate development. Sure we'll build the oil derick or wind farm off your beach, but we'll cloak it so it doesn't impair your view.

Daron Kirn said at October 21, 2006 10:17 AM:


Just put it on your car and speed with impunity!

chris bartlett said at November 13, 2006 2:19 PM:

Does anyone know If you could put this on rotor blades for helicopters, If so you could Transmit to a satellite without worrying about interference from the blades.

wizekat said at October 11, 2007 5:31 AM:

About cloaking :

Starting from the fact that :
"seeing" is merely "capturing" photons reflected by whatever is in front of you;

Covering an object with a metamaterial surface or enregy field having the property of NOT reflecting light, ie: photons, but instead could calculate the exact direction they are coming from, as well as other physical properties, AND, on the exact oposite side of the cloaked object, would generate or send the captured photon, or emit a similar photon going in the exact direction with identical speed and other properties;

THEN, we would have achieved INVISIBILITY TO THE HUMAN EYE for the cloaked object !

There may be more non military applications possible than with microwave cloaking... (hiding hideous buildings from natural sites ?)

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